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Is It Worth It to Get a PHD in Financial Planning?

A man getting his Ph.D. in Financial planning

If you work in financial planning or want to pursue a career in the field, you may wonder about the value of getting a Ph.D. in financial planning. Earning this diploma can open up unparalleled opportunities for employment in teaching, research and consulting. However, it also requires a significant investment of time and money. And, unlike master’s and bachelor’s degrees and advanced professional certifications, it may not do much to enhance a typical financial advising practice. Ready to connect with new clients? SmartAdvisor brings qualified leads to you.

Jobs That Require a Ph.D.

A Ph.D. represents the ultimate educational accomplishment in the field of financial planning. As such, it can open up opportunities for teaching, research and consulting like no other degree or certification.

Graduates with a Ph.D. in financial planning boast unmatched qualifications to work as professors, researchers and consultants. In fact, teaching financial planning at the university level generally requires a Ph.D. in financial planning. Research jobs calling for the credential also exist in some government agencies, non-profit organizations, large financial institutions and private companies.

The vast majority of personal financial advising work doesn’t call for a Ph.D., however. This degree primarily facilitates employment as a researcher or teacher rather than someone dispensing practical financial advice and information to clients.

Earnings Potential

A man working on his Ph.D. thesis in financial planning

Having a Ph.D. in financial planning may not necessarily lead to earning more money than a less-credentialed personal financial advisor. That’s especially true if you use it to land a position as a college instructor.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for personal financial advisors was $94,170 per year in May 2021. Median pay for a post-secondary instructor, meanwhile, amounted to $79,640, according to BLS.

However, tenured professors enjoy excellent job security. Salaries for researchers working for government agencies, investment banks and other organizations potentially exceed academics’ earnings.


Getting a Ph.D. in financial planning requires a sizable investment of time and money. The cost varies depending on the program and the institution. Tuition alone can range from $30,000 to $120,000. Students may have to shell out additional sums for textbooks, research materials and travel expenses.

Pursuing a Ph.D. in financial planning also demands a large time commitment. First, you typically need to devote several years to earn prerequisite master’s and bachelor’s degrees. After that, plan to spend two to three years fulfilling the Ph.D. requirements. If you put your career on pause to study full-time, add two to three years of lost earnings to the cost calculations.

Financial Planning Ph.D. Curriculum

Ph.D. students in financial planning study advanced theories related to financial planning, including investments, retirement planning, estate planning, tax planning and risk management. They also do deep dives into research methods and statistical analysis.

In addition to coursework, students pursuing a Ph.D. in financial planning have to complete a dissertation. This consists of a research project that demonstrates the student’s ability to perform original research in the field of financial planning.

Alternatives to a Ph.D. in Financial Planning                        

If a Ph.D. doesn’t feel like a good fit, other career-enhancing options exist. For instance, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in financial planning and related fields supply advisors with invaluable training on investing, budgeting, taxes and other matters.

Advanced certifications like the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation represent additional alternatives. The CFP designation is a professional certification for financial planners. To become a CFP, you must complete a course of study in financial planning and pass a comprehensive exam. The CFP designation is recognized as a standard of excellence in the financial planning profession and can lead to higher salaries and more job opportunities.

Bottom Line

A couple working in the same Ph.D. in financial planning

Getting a Ph.D. in financial planning can open up opportunities for teaching, research and consulting. As holders of the highest educational achievement in the field, graduates with a Ph.D. in financial planning often find work as professors, researchers and consultants for public and private universities, financial institutions, research organizations and government agencies. Depending on exactly what you do with it, this degree can lead to higher salaries and more job opportunities. However, it also demands a significant commitment of time and money while doing little to enhance a typical financial advising practice.

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Photo credit: ©, © Chernetska, ©

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